ST. LOUIS – Mayor Tishaura Jones hasn’t changed her stance against state control of St. Louis police, and she made that clear during Tuesday’s State of the City address.
“We have been vocal about what we need to improve public safety, and a state takeover of [the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department] isn’t it,” said Jones during Tuesday’s address. “We have 99 problems, and the state stepping in and taking over our criminal justice system ain’t one.”
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has operated under the control of the mayor’s office for nearly a decade after approval from voters in 2012. For more than 150 years before that, the agency operated under a police board rather than local control.
With the end of Missouri’s legislative session is drawing closer, it seems some lawmakers are still pressing hard for St. Louis City to return to its previous system. One bill from St. Louis County-based lawmaker, Rep. Brad Christ (R-Sunset Hills), has cleared the Missouri House and remains up for review in the Senate. Lawmakers introduced many similar versions of this bill in January.
Jones called the GOP-backed efforts “a slap in the face” in a one-on-one conversation with FOX 2’s Emily Manley several months ago. She reiterated some similar views on Tuesday, calling the possibility of state control in policing “a hot mess.”
“State control of police was a hot mess in the 1800s, when it was implemented by a Confederate governor,” said Jones. “It was a hot mess when Jefferson City-approved bureaucrats on the police board called in favors for friends and family. It’s a hot mess today in Kansas City, which just experienced its most violent years on record despite the state still controlling KC’s police force.”
The bill is pushing for any Missouri municipality not specifically located within a county, like St. Louis City, to assign ownership of funds, property and other assets to the board of police commissioners. The only other municipality that apply for such criteria is the city of Kansas City, Missouri, which already functions under control of a police board.
“Imagine having five bosses as St. Louis’ police chief, all telling you what to do all at once,” said Jones. “Imagine how that pushed politics into public safety. That is what a state takeover of police would mean – a police department more accountable to unelected bureaucrats than the communities they patrol.
Jones also noted that violent crime and property crimes are down since Robert Tracy took over as police chief in January. She adds that a new union contract supports the concept of the St. Louis Mayor’s Office overseeing control of our police department.
For a closer look at Jones’ remarks on policing and other topics relevant to St. Louis City, click here.
Meanwhile, Christ’s bill is in the fiscal oversight process in the Senate, the final step before it head to the Senate floor for debate. Missouri’s legislative session, and the opportunity to approve this legislation, ends on May 12.